Teens in the Digital Age: 5 Tips for Parents

There’s an old adage that says there’s no manual for parenting, and parents of teens well know that life can be unpredictable. However, throw technology into the mix and some parents may feel even more overwhelmed. Teens in the digital age love connecting with peers via social networks and messaging apps, but parents are often concerned about cyberbullying and inappropriate content. Though parents and teens may feel like they are on opposite sides when it comes to using technology like smartphones and tablets, there are ways for both parties to get what they want.

1. Decide on Time Limits Together

When your teen is first starting to use their smartphone or tablet, it is easy for them to lose hours playing games, chatting with friends and tinkering with their devices. However, parents may worry that their teens are getting too much screen time and, in the process, neglecting homework and chores. Before you give your teen their own device, try to set time limits that make sense for your child and that are easily enforceable.

2. Don’t Install Parental Control Apps Without Permission

There are tons of parental control apps out there that can monitor app usage, device location and sent/received texts—Tom’s Guide has an excellent list if you’re not sure where to start. Though some parents may want to install one of these apps to keep an eye on their teen’s behavior, it is vital that you do so with your teen’s permission. Not only will this show that you value their privacy, but it will also give your teen the chance to show that they can be trusted with their devices.

3. Agree on Punishments Before Bad Behavior

Teaching your child that having a device comes with certain responsibilities can be tough, especially when bad behavior occurs. However, when a grade slips or chores go undone, it is important not to automatically jump to taking a device away without discussing it first. Instead, when you give your teen their smartphone or tablet, let them know what is expected of them so the device ownership can be seen as a privilege. For instance, telling your teen that dipping below a B average in school will result in the loss of the device will help keep your child motivated so they can continue “earning” the use of their device, rather than worrying about what behaviors may or may not get it taken away.

4. Discuss All App Downloads Before They Happen

Another thorny area for parents and teens is app use and downloads. If there are any apps you flat out object to your teen using, like Snapchat or Tinder, make sure your child knows beforehand. Have a conversation with teens about app purchases, in-app purchases and other money-related issues that may come up. Parents can elect to disable paid apps on their teen’s device or set a reasonable monthly budget for any app expenditures.

5. Talk Frankly About Device Costs

In the same vein as app purchases, parents and teens should also discuss the actual costs of owning a device. Whether the device is new or used, smartphones and tablets are a luxury, and it is vital that teens understand that a lost or broken device may not be replaced immediately.

Though it can be tough for parents to find ways to work with teens in the digital age, not everything tech-related needs to be a battle. Setting clear boundaries early, making sure expectations are known ahead of time and having honest conversations with your teen will set the stage for responsible device ownership.

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